Empowering Women Rescued from Slavery

Stories | June 27, 2014

For most of us, the causes we support are a matter of personal choice — and often motivated by moments that made a big impression on us.

For UBC professor Toph Marshall, the two moments that connected him deeply to his favourite charity’s cause couldn’t be more different: one, a fun scavenger-hunt-style race across the Lower Mainland. The other, demolishing the walls of a former child brothel in Cambodia.

“My time in Cambodia really changed me,” he says. “To be there and see in person that this country needs help and has really suffered from its history, that’s just eye-opening.”

What led Toph on his journey was a call to long-time supporters by Ratanak International, a charity known for their work with victims of Cambodia’s sex trade. Toph didn’t hesitate long. Together with 11 other volunteers, he set out to a small, run-down village in Cambodia where he worked relentlessly for almost a month to demolish the walls of the 10×10 cubicles on the first floor.


“It was physically really hard. There was no air conditioning, so you work at up to 40-degree temperatures under a tin roof. But in the end, we turned this negative, depressing place into a clean, open, totally different space with a positive purpose,” Toph says about the former brothel that serves as a community centre today.


An Incredible Race For A Great Cause

Five years later, Toph decided to sweat again under the hot sun to support Ratanak’s work. On May 10, he laced up his running shoes to participate in this year’s Incredible Ratanak Race.


The rules of Ratanak’s race are similar to the popular TV show the event is named after. Vancouverites team up and hunt down clues or complete challenges until they reach the finish line.

Instead of competing for prize money, however, participants raise money for a good cause.

With $2,790 raised, Toph is this year’s “champion” fundraiser.

“I had such a good time. I love all the puzzles and physical challenges,” says Toph, who can now proudly say that he mastered the art of no-hands cookie consumption.


“And a generous Ratanak supporter offered a match for this year’s race, so it was a really easy sell to be able to say to people ‘When you give now to my group that means your donation will have double the impact.’”

In total, supporters gave $12,000 (including the match). The money will be used to support the work of Ratanak International in Cambodia to prevent sex slavery and rehabilitate victims.

A Safe Haven for Young Women

For Alexis Cobham, Ratanak’s Events Manager and “co-inventor” of the Incredible Ratanak Race, the root cause of Cambodia’s child sex trade is buried deep within the country’s tumultuous and often violent history.

“You basically have these people who were child soldiers during the Pol Pot dictatorship, and all they were ever taught is how to murder, lie and torture. These kids are adults now and parents themselves. Many suffer from untreated PTSD, poverty and desperation, so they often feel like they have no choice but to sell their kids.”


To give young women who have been exploited and abused a chance at a better future, Ratanak started the Ratanak Achievement Program. The program offers them a safe place to stay, as well as mentoring and counseling — so that they can focus on their education and heal from their traumatic experience.

The money raised at this year’s Incredible Race will go toward maintaining and expanding services.

“It’s a fantastic program,” says Alexis, who has travelled to Cambodia in the past to see the program’s tremendous impact with her own eyes.

“What really stood out for me was how these girls who went through hell, have so much hope and aspirations for the future.”

As for the future of Ratanak’s Incredible Race, Alexis says she’ll soon be starting to plan next year’s event.

“We’re hoping to expand next year’s race. We did really, really well this year in terms of raising money, but I think we can do even better.”

Want to help Ratanak’s work?
Until July 31, 2014, a generous Ratanak supporter is matching every dollar you give! Double your impact and help young women in Cambodia to build a better future for themselves — and generations to come. Give today.

Interested in running your own fundraiser?
There are so many wonderful causes out there that need the support of passionate world changers like you. Talk to us if you’re interested in running your own fundraiser. We get you started and help you every step along the way with one-on-one support.

Call us: 1-877-531-0580
Email: hello@chimp.net

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